A Galah - Nearly half of 200 Australian species are threatened by climate change.

A Galah – Nearly half of 200 Australian species are threatened by climate change.

Warning: This could be depressing reading for some. I have posted about this report as I believe climate change is an issue that we cannot afford to ignore, even if what the scientists & researchers predict is scary.

The US Global Change Research Program has released ‘The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A scientific Assessment,’ which looks at how climate change is affecting human health & the changes that may happen in the future. Reading through this document it is easy to see how the changes can be similar for Australia.

There is a lot of information in this document, so I have cherry-picked what I found particularly interesting. I recommend reading the whole document. See – https://health2016.globalchange.gov

“Climate change can …. affect human health in two main ways:
• by changing the severity or frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate or weather factors;
• by creating unprecedented or unanticipated health problems or health threats in places where they have not previously occurred.”

The researchers believe heat-related deaths will increase, especially in children, the elderly & economically disadvantaged groups.

“Days that are hotter than usual in the summer or colder than usual in the winter are both associated with increased illness and death. Mortality effects are observed even for small differences from seasonal average temperatures.”

The researchers expect “…an increase of thousands to tens of thousands of premature heat-related deaths”, however, tolerance to extreme heat is expected with the increased use of air conditioning.  So we will be stuck indoors & hoping the power stays on without a problem.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said that March 2016 was the hottest March on record & the 2nd March was Australia’s hottest day on record. Two records broken in the same month!

February 2016 was the hottest month globally & 2015 the hottest year since records started. Keeping with breaking records, today was the hottest April day in Sydney since records began with temperatures reaching 36.6C in Penrith & 34.2 in Sydney CBD. See – http://bit.ly/1N87KX6

Increases in outdoor air pollutants are expected (ground-level ozone, carbon dioxide & fine particulate matter). Just released research has shown that any type of particulate matter is bad for human health. See http://bit.ly/1pVLiuM

Indoor air quality is expected to deteriorate. “Poor air quality, whether outdoors or indoors, can negatively affect the human respiratory and cardiovascular systems.”

Wildfires are expected to increase, again negatively impacting air quality & “increasing the risk of premature death and adverse chronic and acute cardiovascular and respiratory health outcomes.” Bushfires are a major threat in Australia. Asthma & allergic illnesses are expected to increase.

Increases in extreme weather events are expected such as drought, flooding the frequency and/or intensity of drought, wildfires & hurricanes. We can expect similar in Australia.

“Climate change is expected to alter the geographic and seasonal distributions of existing vectors and vector-borne diseases.”   These are mosquitoes, ticks & viruses like Malaria & Dengue Fever. Some may be new, some may resurface & their impact will be up to the human population in how they control them, as well as how well they protect themselves.

Across most of the United States & I would assume the same for Australia, we can expect waterborne diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, protozoa, harmful algae, human-produced chemicals & through “ingestion, inhalation, or direct contact with contaminated drinking or recreational water and through consumption of contaminated fish and shellfish.”

“Increases in some extreme weather events and storm surges will increase the risk that infrastructure for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater will fail due to either damage or exceedance of system capacity, especially in areas with aging infrastructure.” A couple of years ago I read that Marrickville municipality’s aging stormwater & sewerage infrastructure is at capacity & this is before the significant increase in population planned.

The recent report ‘Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System’ found that “climate change is very likely to affect global, regional, and local food security by disrupting food availability, decreasing access to food, and making utilization more difficult.”  See – http://1.usa.gov/1OxfV3c  So we will be hot & hungry.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide reduces the concentrations of protein and essential minerals in most plant species affecting food staples such as wheat, rice & potatoes. Rising sea temperatures is expected to increase mercury levels in seafood.

“Mental health consequences of climate change range from minimal stress and distress symptoms to clinical disorders, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and suicidality. Other consequences include effects on the everyday life, perceptions, and experiences of individuals and communities attempting to understand and respond appropriately to climate change and its implications.”

Think PSTD as a result of the Brisbane floods. “People whose households were directly impacted by flooding had a decrease in perceived overall health, along with increases in psychological distress, decreased sleep quality and probable PTSD. Residents were also more likely to increase usage of both tobacco and alcohol after flooding.” See – http://eprints.qut.edu.au/50883/

“… populations of concern, include those with low income, some communities of color, immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, children and pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.” That’s a lot of the community.

As I interpret it, you have a better chance at managing & adapting to climate change if you are a young adult, have no health issues or disabilities, are not Indigenous or an immigrant, don’t work outdoors, have a secure & sufficient income & lastly, not pregnant.

In reality it is the big industries that cause the bulk of the carbon output. Research by Richard Heede titled ‘Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010’ found that “the climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age.”  See –  http://bit.ly/1gCaHA0
& http://bit.ly/1nuungL

This may be pretty shocking & somewhat overwhelming, but we as individuals can make changes to our lifestyle choices that have a significant impact, particularly if enough of us do it.

Australia’s level of consumption & ecological footprint needs 4.8 planet Earths. We are ahead of the United States of America who need just 3.9 planet Earths. See – http://bbc.in/1Sk4oE5   Today 6th April 2016 the resident population of Australia is projected to be 24,037,142, while the USA started 2016 with a population of 323,572,160 almost 13.5 times greater than Australia.

The bottom line is that human beings cannot keep on living as though we have infinite resources without getting an enormous payback from the planet & unfortunately that payback is at its minimum, lots of suffering for people, & at its worse, partial or full extinction & I am not including non-human species here. We have to wonder whether we are actually destroying that which keeps us alive.

To end on a positive note, I believe that we can stop runaway climate change, but we all need to work together & start now.